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Malaysia brings back old graft-busters for 1MDB task force

Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA is bringing back former 1MDB investigators to head a task force focused on reviving probes into the troubled state investment company and recover assets lost due to wrongdoing.

The team will be led by former Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and former anti-graft agency chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed, who both left their posts under Najib Razak's government amid the previous probe into 1MDB. The task force is set to meet on Tuesday, Abdul Gani told reporters on Monday.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was elected less than two weeks ago, is moving fast to root out corruption from his administration. Authorities have prevented those linked to wrongdoing in state finances from leaving the country, drafted a wide scope of investigation into 1MDB, while the anti-graft agency will question Mr Najib on Tuesday, following searches at the former premier's residence. Mr Najib has denied wrongdoing.

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Abdul Gani and Abu Kassim were part of a previous task force that was investigating a money trail said to move through state agencies and companies linked to 1MDB before appearing in Mr Najib's personal accounts.

Abdul Gani was replaced as attorney-general for what Mr Najib's government said were health reasons in 2015. Dr Mahathir said recently that Abdul Gani told him he was removed from the position when he was preparing to charge Mr Najib.

Former judge Mohamed Apandi Ali became the new attorney-general. He acquitted Mr Najib in January 2016 after a probe on US$681 million that appeared in the then-premier's personal accounts, saying it was a donation from the Saudi Arabian royal family. Mr Apandi has since been put on leave by Dr Mahathir.

Abu Kassim resigned from the anti-graft agency in August 2016 after the government approved his third request to quit.

The police's former special branch deputy director, Abdul Hamid Bador, and recently-appointed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Mohd Shukri Abdull will also lead the group, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

The task force will focus on tracking down embezzlement of any 1MDB funds by working with regulatory agencies in the US, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada, and other related countries, according to the statement. The team will be responsible for prosecuting individuals involved in any wrongdoing in the management of the state fund, whose full name is 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Attorney-General's Chambers, Royal Malaysia Police, and Bank Negara Malaysia will be members of the task force. BLOOMBERG